Volume 1, Number 2. May 2010
Inside Our Exclusive Interview with Secretary of Natural Resources Doug Domenech Speaker William Howell recaps the 2010 General Assembly Session Is It Time for A Constitutional Convention? Legislator Profile: Delegate Chris Stolle and more...
In this Issue Letter from Bearing Drift...............................................4 Yeas and Nays................................................................5 Exclusive Interview Secretary of Natural Resources Doug Domenech..........6 Reestablishing Federalism in the United States...........12 Virginia History: Confederate History Month..............17 Making Virginia Taxpayers a Priority Speaker William J. Howell............................................18 The Iron Triangle of Bedford........................................26 Legislator Profile: Delegate Chris Stolle.......................31 McDonnell's Opening Act Dr. Robert Holsworth...................................................34 The Final Ward.............................................................36
Bearing Drift J.R. Hoeft, Editor and Publisher - firstname.lastname@example.org Michael Fletcher, Design Editor - email@example.com Jane Dudley, Photo Editor - firstname.lastname@example.org Ron Ko, Copy Editor - email@example.com Contributors this issue: Speaker William J. Howell, Dr. Robert Holsworth, Alan Moore, Jason Johnson, DCH, Brian Kirwin, Wade Brumett, Ward Smythe ÂŠ Copyright 2010
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Letter from Bearing Drift Last month’s inaugural issue of the e-zine surpassed all my expectations, and this month’s issue only gets better. The 2010 General Assembly Session wrapped up in mid-March after only going one day into overtime to resolve a $4 billion budget shortfall; quite a feat when you consider the amount of cuts and decisions that had to be made with spending and taxes. Giving us insight into how those decisions were made and some of the challenges that face Virginia legislators in the next several months is Speaker of the House William Howell. Howell, arguably Virginia’s most powerful legislator, discusses, in detail, the budget process, as well as some of the Governor’s latest initiatives and what he expects for the veto session in April. Dr. Bob Holsworth, now a regularly contributing monthly columnist to the Bearing Drift e-zine, looks at one sentence that will summarize Governor Bob McDonnell’s first year in office. Holsworth is always accurate, and I think it would be difficult for anyone to disagree with his assessment here. Secretary of Natural Resources Doug Domenech is our feature interview this month, and “DCH” does a great job profiling the man who will be responsible for leading oversight of Virginia’s Environmental Quality, Conservation and Recreation, Historic Resources, Game and Inland Fisheries, Marine Resources and Native American relations. Given offshore energy production (including wind and drilling), the Virginia Civil War Sesquicentennial, among others, we’ll be hearing a lot from Secretary Domenech over the next four years.
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We also profile the legislator who helped craft Virginia’s laws in moving forward on offshore drilling: Del. Chris Stolle.
poll; and Virginia History, where we look at a topic relevant to Virginia’s heritage in the context of the modern discussion.
As we look back at this past legislative session, we note how the state budget has impacted local school districts, profiling the confrontation that occurred in Bedford County and we see how Del. Jim LeMunyon (R-Fairfax) and other Virginia leaders are leading the national discussion about a possible Article V Constitutional Convention.
I’d also like to hear your thoughts. Shoot me an email with your comments on the articles or what you think of the magazine to firstname.lastname@example.org and include in your subject line, “Ezine letter”.
Additionally, as a preview of next month’s issue, we discuss the importance of the TEA Party on 5th District politics. Our next issue will be exclusively dedicated to the Intra-Party battles leading up to each district declaring their party’s nominee for Congress in June. I’d also like to highlight a few new features that we have in this issue too: “Yeas and Nays”, which effectively looks at what we liked and disliked in the past month on a particular topic; our monthly poll, where we display and analyze your responses to last month’s online
See you next month!
J.R. Hoeft email@example.com
Yeas: “Virginia Health Care Freedom Act”: Del. Bob Marshall, Sen. Jill Vogel, Sen. Fred Quayle, and Sen. Steve Martin all introduced measures that permit a Virginia citizen to choose not to purchase health care or required to maintain an insurance policy for whatever reason. Now we’ll see if it stands up in court. “Balancing the budget”: Virginia lawmakers managed to cut spending and not raise taxes despite being left with a $4 billion shortfall by former Governor Tim Kaine and a proposal in his budget to raise taxes by 17%. Because of overly optimistic revenue projections under the Kaine, the legislature has had to cut $11 billion from the budget since April 2007. Offshore Energy: Del. Ron Villanueva and Sen. Frank Wagner championed opening up Virginia’s shoreline greater than 50 miles away to lease sales for exploration for natural gas and oil. Dels. Chris Stolle and Barbara Comstock also proposed a revenue sharing measure where 80% goes to transportation and 20% to the development of renewable energy. Now, we wait on Congress for their revenue sharing plan. Pro-business measures: The governor now has greater flexibility to attract businesses with increased funding for the “Governor’s Opportunity Fund.” The General Assembly also passed increased tax credits for certain sectors in the economy, including for those industries involved with science and research, biofuels and renewable energy, film and entertainment, and Virginia wine and those creating jobs in enterprise zones.
Nays: Failed to pass Sen.Mark Obenshain’s “Triggerman” bill. Accessories to capital murders should also be eligible for the death penalty. Failed to pass Del. Sal Iaquinto’s tax assessment bill. Would have taken the burden of proof off of homeowners when they feel their assessments were raised too high, placing it squarely where it belongs: on the localities/assessor in an assessment appeal case. Failed to change biennial budgeting. Despite bipartisan calls from former Governors Doug Wilder and Tim Kaine and Governor Bob McDonnell to change when the budget should be presented, Senators turned a blind eye. Failed to add “Sexual Orientation” as a protected class. Only the legislature can change Virginia’s Human Rights Act and House Republicans killed a bill that would change it. This has put Governor McDonnell and Attorney General Cuccinelli in a difficult position, and has given Democrats a wedge issue for the next election cycle.
Increased speed limit: Sen. Steve Newman and Del. Bill Carrico carried bills that increased the speed limit from 65MPH to 70MPH on certain stretches of Virginia’s interstates, enabling travelers to get to their destinations faster. Because of improvements in vehicle fuel efficiency and safety this is a law overdue.
March Poll: Most Remembered Legislation from the 2010 GA Session. What will be the most remembered legislation from the 2010 General Assembly Session:
Our March poll of Bearing Drift readers asked what bit of legislation will be remembered most from the 2010 General Assembly Session. When the question was first posed, health care reform at the national level was still being debated and the final outcome still uncertain. However, BD readers, especially after the final votes were tallied in the U.S. House of Representatives, rallied to Virginia’s “Health Care Freedom” Act, saying that it is going to be the most remembered legislation to come out of the session. With Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli using the legislation as the basis for Virginia’s legal challenge against the Federal Government over health care, it is hard to argue with them, despite much of the debate in the session being about balancing the state budget with a $4 billion revenue shortfall.
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Bearing Drift Exclusive Interview with Secretary of Natural Resources Doug Domenech BD: Mr. Domenech, welcome to Bearing Drift. On behalf of the team here at BD, congratulations on your appointment as Secretary of Natural Resources for the Commonwealth of Virginia. For our readers who may not know you, you have experience on the Virginia Board of Forestry under Governor Gilmore and in the Department of the Interior under President Bush. You are also the first Hispanic to be named to the McDonnell cabinet. Your interest in conservation led you to pursue a degree in Forestry and Wildlife Management from Virginia Tech. What inspired your interest in natural resource management?
Doug Domenech (pronounced DOM-en-etch) was appointed Secretary of Natural Resources on January 17, 2010 by Governor Robert F. McDonnell. In this role he manages five state agencies including the Department of Environmental Quality, Department of Conservation and Recreation, Department of Historic Resources, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, and the Virginia Marine Resources Commission. In addition, he oversees the Virginia Museum of Natural History and the Virginia Council on Indians. Previously, Doug served in a number of positions at the U.S. Department of Interior from 2001 to 2009 including as White House Liaison and as Deputy Chief of Staff to the Secretary.
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DD: First, thank you for the opportunity to address your readers and let me say how honored and humbled I am to be serving the Commonwealth as Secretary of Natural Resources. I guess there are many reasons why I was interested in natural resource management when I went to forestry school in 1973. Of course at the time the environmental movement was gaining popularity as an outgrowth of the “hippie counter culture” and, after all, I wore flip-flops, played the guitar, and had a pony tail so enrolling in forestry seemed natural. I would add, however, that my own personal political worldview was also developing and I pretty quickly became disillusioned with the “earth first” perspective of my peers. It seemed clear that natural resources were there for our benefit and that for the most part, properly managed, they were renewable. Yes we should not pollute, but working together we can improve the environment while still utilizing it.
BD: A lot of people seem to think that Republicans are unconcerned with protecting the environment - or even intent on destroying it. As a self-described conservative Republican, why do you value conservation and what will the McDonnell administration do to protect our natural resources in the Commonwealth? DD: I agree that too often Republicans, and conservatives, are wrongly painted as unconcerned about protecting the environment. The Commonwealthâ€™s prosperity is based on both a healthy environment and a sound economy. Clean water and clean air are important to our society. Too often we forget that it was Republican President Teddy Roosevelt who established the National Park system and the first wildlife refuges. It was Republican Richard Nixon who signed the Clean Air Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and indeed established the EPA.
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Republican Presidents and Governors have created dozens of Parks and Refuges over the years. During the 2 terms of President George W. Bush, air pollution dropped by 12% after he instituted strict air quality standards. He protected more than 3.6-million acres of wetlands and conserved millions of acres of vital natural habitat on farms. He led the effort to protect more than 27-million acres of federal forest from catastrophic wildfires and invested billions of dollars toward the maintenance backlog in our National Parks. And finally, President Bush created the largest ocean marine sanctuaries in history. I am proud to say that Governor McDonnell has a strong commitment and solid record of protecting the environment in Virginia. He championed legislation to ban the use of phosphorus in detergents, a key pollutant in the Chesapeake Bay. Continued on Page 8
Secretary Domenech, Continued from Page 7 The Governor also successfully sued to stop a wastewater treatment operator from polluting the Shenandoah River and supported several efforts to protect the Chesapeake Bay, including establishing an income tax refund for contributions made to help restore the bay. As he has said, "philosophically, conservation is a conservative value." The Governor will continue to lead on this issue because it is important to Virginia citizens. We are blessed with a beautiful state and we will work to keep it that way. That said, too often we are saddled with an unworkable bureaucratic approach to conservation that is crowding out real environmental progress. It is a system that results in high conflict and high costs based on: Prescription – top-down decision-making approach that insists Washington or Richmond knows best. Punishment – that the primary way to motivate human action is to punish using sticks instead of carrots, and Process – a preoccupation with process and permits instead of performance and results. Polluters should be punished and we should base our decisions on sound science that includes human health and well-being in the equation and provides a means of assessing the costs and benefits of actions designed to reduce, control, and remediate pollution. BD: The Bureau of Labor Statistics says we lost 54,700 jobs last year. Fewer taxpayers means lower tax revenues and a Commonwealth-wide budget crunch. How will these lost revenues affect the areas you oversee as Secretary of Natural Resources? DD: As a result of the bad economy, Governor McDonnell inherited the largest budget deficit in Virginia history. Yet at the end of the day, he was able to work with the General Assembly to balance the state budget without a tax increase. That is a real credit to his leadership. Volume 1, Number 2 / May 2010
Doug Domenech relocates and endangered loggerhead turtle on St. Croix USVI. The whole Secretariat of Natural Resources represents only 1% of the state budget so our footprint is quite small and our budget reductions were minimal. In some ways, however, this budget crisis affords us the opportunity to look carefully at the proper role of state government and not only do “more with less”, but perhaps do “less with less.” The Governor’s Commission on Government Reform and Restructuring (Executive Order #2) will explore this subject and work toward a more efficient and effect government that costs less. I would add, however, that a clean environment adds greatly to Virginia’s tourism industry and many of our parks make money for the Commonwealth. In fact, the whole Department of Game and Inland Fisheries does not get any general fund funds to operate. Their whole budget is based on the fees paid by those who purchase hunting and fishing licenses, along with other grants.
BD: Overall, how do you think natural resources policy in the Commonwealth will differ under your leadership and that of Governor McDonnell from your predecessors? What policies or initiatives do you think you will maintain? DD: As we all know, elections have consequences. Governor McDonnell won 58% of the vote in November. He will certainly not govern like the last Governor. Every Governor has a set of priorities and Governor McDonnell is no different. Robert F. McDonnell believes in conservative principles and ran as a conservative. Governor McDonnell will bring that philosophy in all the decisions he makes. As such, he will focus on the proper role of the state in how we manage our natural and cultural resources. As I said in an earlier answer, we will work to lessen the bureaucratic approach to conservation that is crowding out real environmental progress with prescription, punishment and process. We will work to reduce conflict and high costs while punishing polluters. We will base our decisions on sound science that takes into account human
health and well-being as a means of assessing the costs and benefits of actions. That means we will do things in a different way. For example, the Governor has made a commitment to preserve 400,000 acres of open space land. The last administration made, and achieved, the same commitment. However, as conservatives, our focus will be working with non-profits to encourage the voluntary use of conservation easements rather than purchasing more state land. The Governor is also committed to protecting the Chesapeake Bay using voluntary, private initiatives to encourage the agriculture, forestry, and development communities to implement best management practices that will help clean the Bay and avoid EPA intervention in the Commonwealth. In contrast, the last Administration welcomed EPA pressure and threats of regulation to force change in these areas. This Administration will work to accomplish our commitments on the Bay while protecting our number one industry (agriculture and forestry). We will strongly resist overreaching by EPA on Bay issues or their attempts to regulate CO2 emissions. Continued on Page 10
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Secretary Domenech, Continued from Page 9 The last Administration created the Governor’s Commission on Climate Change which produced a report with recommendations for action. We are now reviewing the report to decide what actions we will take in light of new scientific information which has come forward questioning the underlying data on which much of the climate discussion has been made. Finally, there is a dramatic difference in this Administration’s view of offshore energy development. While the last Administration gave tepid support for energy exploration, Governor McDonnell has been unwavering in his commitment to make Virginia the energy capitol of the east coast – exploring and developing energy off Virginia’s outer continental shelf. BD: One of the last things Governor Kaine did before leaving office was to announce the completion of one of his signature goals: reaching more than 400,000 acres of land owned and conserved by the Commonwealth. Will you seek to expand, contract or maintain the amount of acreage owned by the Commonwealth and will you seek additional monies to purchase or maintain public lands? Would you support selling any of these lands back to the private sector? DD: As my earlier answer said, Governor McDonnell has made a similar commitment to protect an additional 400,000 acres but we will do it through private easements as much as possible. Rather than lock up these lands from use, we will encourage the conservation of working farms and forests. Virginia’s tax credit program can be a great source of income for landowners. There may be unique circumstances where the purchase of land will take place. For instance, the General Assembly passed General Obligation Bonds in 2002 and 2008 part of which was specifically for the purchase of lands for state parks, wildlife management areas, or state forests. Volume 1, Number 2 / May 2010
These funds are almost exhausted. We are also not opposed to disposing of excess state property, where it makes sense. We are planning to do an exhaustive audit of state property to identify opportunities to do this. Finally, we will avoid accepting donations of land to the state. If we own it, we have to maintain it. BD: As you know, energy is a hot topic here in the Commonwealth and use of our offshore resources is of great interest to BD readers. Your recent past work in government relations focused on energy issues and you were involved with Chrysalis Energy Partners, a green energy consulting firm. Governor McDonnell has made his support for clean, responsible oil and gas drilling off Virginia's coast clear. Where do you see the Commonwealth's energy policy going in the McDonnell administration and what role will your office play in advancing the Governor's policy? DD: The Governor has been steadfast in his efforts to make Virginia the energy capitol of the east coast and encourage the federal government to offer oil and gas lease sale 220 in 2011. Governor McDonnell has been aggressively advocating for the federal government to keep to the schedule of offering oil and gas lease sales in 2011. He also led the successful effort to win support from the General Assembly to make exploration and development the official position of the Commonwealth, and a method of how to split revenues to the state. The Governor has also actively participated in meetings with the Interior Department to develop offshore wind and committed the state to participate on an Atlantic Wind Energy Consortium. We want to do it all: offshore and onshore, conventional and renewable energy. This includes development of oil, gas, nuclear, coal, wind, biomass, and coal bed natural gas. The Governor has named Maureen Matsen as his Energy Advisor who will lead the effort to update Virginia’s Energy Plan. We will also work to provide electric grid access for these new energy producers.
BD: Now getting a little further down in the weeds, we all know that overpopulation in Virginia deer herds combined with rapid suburban development contributes to a large number of deer / vehicle collisions. Many hunters advocate the elimination of Virginia's ban on Sunday hunting, a blue law that many say is counter-productive to our wildlife management goals. What is your position on this question and would the McDonnell administration support legislation rolling back the ban on Sunday hunting? DD: The Governor has said he would support lifting the ban on Sunday hunting, but only on private land. I am for expanding hunting season in length and numbers as much as possible consistent with herd management needs. BD: Thank you for joining us and best wishes in your new position. Interview conducted by Bearing Drift contributor DCH.
As Secretary of Natural Resources, Doug Domenech oversees the Department of Conservation and Recreation and Virginia's State Parks. First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach is located near the site where The Virginia Company landed on April 26, 1606. The photo shown is from the reenactment held on the shores of the park in 2006.
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Re-establishing Federalism in the United States: Is a Constitutional Convention the Answer? by Alan Moore The agenda of the Obama administration has put the issue of federalism into the forefront of the national debate. The power of the states versus the federal government is becoming a seminal issue as our country is faced with an expanding centralized government. This issue has grown in stature in Virginia where the state government is leading the charge against this perceived encroachment on liberty. As court battles ensue and laws designed to prevent further intrusions are passed, many are seeking new ways to fight the growing power of the federal bureaucracy. Last year, the Commonwealth rejected $125 million in stimulus funds because acceptance would have created unfunded mandates in the future requiring cuts in essential programs or raising taxes. A number of other states chose to reject stimulus funds for the same reason. Partnering with fourteen other states, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has challenged the Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to regulate greenhouse gases. Additionally, more than a dozen states have joined Virginia in filing suit over the recent health insurance reforms.
House Joint Resolution 183 calls on the “Congress of the United States to call a constitutional convention pursuant to Article V of the Constitution of the United States for the purposes of amending the Constitution of the United States to require (i) a balanced federal budget and reduction of federal debt, (ii) item veto authority to the President, and (iii) prohibition of unfunded mandates to the various states.” Delegate Jim LeMunyon (R-Fairfax) proposed the bill in January. “I think we need a convention,” LeMunyon explained. “It would be good to get the Constitution amended to basically make Congress run the way it’s supposed to be, and the way it needs to be. It’s just gone way over the limits, particularly on the budget side.” Delegate Jim LeMunyon (R-Fairfax)
The health insurance legislation may have been the crescendo in the federalism battle. If the federal government has overstepped their legal authority, what is the most appropriate and effective way to combat the usurpation of power from the states?
Congress can propose amendments to the Constitution if passed by two-thirds of both houses. As with a convention, three-fifths of the states would still have to ratify. The tricky part about that process is if the federal government is the problem, how do you get them to fix themselves?
Virginia’s 2010 legislative session brought up one possible solution: an Article V Convention as defined in the United States Constitution. For such a constitutional convention to take place, two-thirds of the states must officially submit an application to Congress. Any amendments proposed at the convention can only be ratified with approval by three-fourths of the states.
Delegate LeMunyon believes the only way to fix Congress is for the states to exercise their Constitutional power. “Congress has an inherent conflict of interest about amending the Constitution to reign in Congress. Historically, every amendment to the Constitution has been initiated by them and I don’t think anyone expects the Congress to initiate amendments to fix itself…An Article V Convention, and in the particular case of amending the Constitution relating to Congress, is an approach that makes sense,” LeMunyon said.
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While many state records have become unclear over time, it is generally believed that there are still formal calls from nineteen states on the books. Such proposals are not new to Virginia. In 1976 and again in 1977 the General Assembly formally called for a constitutional convention. However, in 2004 Delegate R. Steven Landes (R-Augusta) sponsored House Joint Resolution 194 which rescinded any and all formal calls. He was particularly worried about the “procedural details” of how a convention would take place, given that it is not explicitly outlined in the Constitution. Delegate Landes is not alone in his concerns. Conservative stalwart Phyllis Schlafly is one of the more outspoken critics of an Article V Convention. Also citing procedural issues, she has spoken against it since the 1960’s. The haziness of how the process would actually work leaves much to interpretation by our political leaders. The late Chief Justice Warren Burger agreed with Schlafly’s assessment. In a 1988 letter to her he said, “The Convention could make its own rules and set its own agenda. Congress might try to limit the Convention to one amendment or to one issue, but there is no way to assure that the Convention would obey...Whatever gain might be hoped for from a new Constitutional Convention could not be worth the risks involved. A new Convention could plunge our Nation into constitutional confusion and confrontation at every turn, with no assurance that focus would be on the subjects needing attention.”
Chief Justice Warren E. Burger 1907 - 1995
The risks that Burger referred to are called a “runaway convention.” Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) addressed this issue when Utah was considering withdrawing their application for a constitutional convention in 1990. He claimed that the states should limit the scope of a convention and Congress theoretically could refuse to call a convention if the states refuse to place such limitations. He also said the Supreme Court could throw out any amendments proposed by a runaway convention and Congress could refuse to submit those amendments to the states. Senator Hatch strongly believed that a convention is a prudent expression of constitutional authority by the American people. “Without a means for the people to propose amendments to the Constitution, Congress will control all changes in the document,” he said. “A recalcitrant Congress can frustrate the people’s demand for proper and narrow constitutional improvements.” Delegate LeMunyon agrees that such apprehension is without merit. “The idea that we stand to lose more than we gain presupposes an incredible lack of confidence in state legislatures,” he said. “The fact is that some people outside of Washington might actually get things right when it comes to the Constitution. So that’s not a concern of mine…You need 76 separate votes by houses of state legislatures in 38 states, that’s a lot of votes. When you look at the political composition of the United States and you look at the last 3 presidential elections, you’ve got enough blue states and red states…Anything wacky from either side that might be proposed at a convention just doesn’t stand a chance of being passed.” Since HJR 194 in 2004 there has been one other attempt in the General Assembly to pass a resolution calling on Congress to implement an Article V Convention. Most recently in 2009 Senator Emmett Hanger (R-Harrisonburg) proposed Senate Joint Resolution 315. That bill, along with LeMunyon’s HJR 183, were ultimately left in committee. However, the current political climate might indicate a willingness to see such Continued on Page 14 bills gain traction. BearingDrift.com/ Page 13
Is a Constitutional Convention the Answer? continued If the Obama administration and the current Congress continue to increase the size of federal government and infringe on issues that should be left to the states, legislatures all over the country will begin to evaluate new solutions to fight back. “The real question that needs to get sorted out,” LeMunyon said, “is what is the meaning of federalism? What’s an appropriate role of the government, what are the states supposed to be? Does the 10th amendment exist or did we just erase it and not notice? We’ve got to get these issues on the table.” Delegate LeMunyon may have at least one powerful ally in his efforts; Virginia House of Delegates Speaker William Howell. Howell has been consulting with former U.S. Attorney General Ed Meese on the question of a constitutional convention. In January the Speaker told J.R. Hoeft and Bearing Drift, “Real change comes from changing the current law. If twenty-eight states call for a convention, Congress will take notice.” Speaker Howell echoed some of the same concerns of Congress expressed by LeMunyon, including unfunded mandates. “Congress has been unresponsive to the states and the people,” said Howell. “This is not a Republicaninitiated idea, but a lot of independents are outraged [by the actions of Congress] as well – as they should be. For example, a few short years ago Sen. Mark Warner was governor and knew the budget dilemma we faced with Medicaid. Now, this so-called ‘radical centrist’ is voting for millions of dollars of unfunded mandates on Virginia and increasing our liabilities.” LeMunyon and Howell also agree that the direction of Virginia dictates that other priorities must take precedent over calling for a constitutional convention. However, with Virginia facing additional estimated costs of $1.1 billion in additional Medicaid expenses by 2022, this issue may come up sooner rather than later. Governor Bob McDonnell may have indicated an opening to a constitutional convention in a statement last month in response to the health insurance reform bill being passed. Volume 1, Number 2 / May 2010
“The continued intrusion of this Congress into the free enterprise system, and the placing of new mandates on states, is shocking to the American system of federalism,” McDonnell said. “Most disconcerting is the provision mandating that every American must purchase health insurance or face a monetary penalty. This is an unprecedented expansion of federal power. It is hard to imagine our Founder's agreeing that the United States Constitution permits Congress to mandate the purchase of a good or service under penalty of law.” As Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli continues to look into the options to fight what McDonnell refers to as, “the continued intrusion of this Congress into the free enterprise system,” it is appropriate to speculate that a constitutional convention might be seen as a viable option. There has never been an Article V Convention called by the states in the history of the country. In fact the only constitutional convention to take place was in 1787 when the Articles of Confederation were dissolved. The last real effort to hold one came in the 1980’s when a movement to add a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution began to gain traction. There were similar efforts before that, but they always fell short of the required number of state legislatures formally submitting applications for a convention. Many states still have strong feelings on the subject. For example, last month South Dakota formally rescinded their application for an Article V Convention. Their most recent application had been on the books since 1993. Both proponents and opponents of a convention can see the writing on the wall that a new movement could begin in the near future. The last great proponent of calling a constitutional convention was the late former Senate Republican Leader Everett Dirksen (IL). A constitutional warrior, he attempted to overturn a 1964 Supreme Court decision that state legislative districts must be drawn solely on population.
Having failed to attain a legislative fix in Congress, he turned to the power of the states. Dirksen came pretty close too, having worked to get thirty-three states to quietly call for a convention. There are some appealing advantages to the states calling for a constitutional convention. The legislatures would ultimately determine how the convention would be run. As noted by Senator Hatch, Congress has very limited powers in the process. The President has absolutely no role in the process whatsoever. While it is almost a certainty that Congress or the President would try to inject their opinions into the debate, the Constitution is pretty clear. Article V reads, “The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress; provided that no amendment which may be made prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first article; and that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.” Would Congress or the President blatantly disregard the will of the states if an Article V convention is called and amendments are proposed? If they did then surely the voters would vote them out of office at the next election or worse.
Historically, when our country has been faced with extraordinary challenges Virginia has fearlessly led the way. Notably, Virginian James Madison is referred to as the “Father of the Constitution” for his role in the 1787 constitutional convention. It would not come as a surprise if Virginians lead the way again to move the country back towards what our founding fathers envisioned for this great land. Delegate LeMunyon believes that we may soon be faced with the fact that a constitutional convention is the only way to get our country back on track. He indicated that it's time these issues become central in the national debate. “It does need more attention,” LeMunyon stated, “it’s not something that people need to be afraid of or scared about…If somebody has a better idea then I’m all ears but I just don’t see it.”
“Article 5 is fairly plainly stated,” LeMunyon said. “You would hope that Congress would just go ahead and do it [as outlined in the Constitution].” Another interesting point is that Governors of each state do not have veto power or have to sign the applications of the legislatures. The average American citizen probably has no clue how much power the state legislature is capable of wielding. BearingDrift.com/ Page 15
In and around the 5th District
Original cartoons by Wade Brumett Volume 1, Number 2 / May 2010
Virginia History: Confederate History Month April is Confederate History Month in Virginia, recalling the sacrifice of the thousands of men and women, black and white, who suffered the perils of slavery and war in the Commonwealth. The month is meant for Virginians of all walks to remember the causes and actions that led to the Civil War and prepare citizens to “understand our past and embrace or future” during Virginia’s four-year commemoration of the Civil War beginning in 2011. “This defining chapter in Virginia’s history should not be forgotten, but instead should be studied, understood and remembered by all Virginians, both in the context of the time in which it took place, but also in the context of the time in which we live,” writes Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell proclaiming April as Confederate History Month. “It is important for all Virginians to understand that the institution of slavery led to this war and was an evil and inhumane practice that deprived people of their God-given inalienable rights and all Virginians are thankful for its permanent eradication from our borders, and the study of this time period should reflect upon and learn from this painful part of our history.” McDonnell also says that taking a month to study and remember Confederate History “takes on particular importance as the Commonwealth prepares to welcome the nation and the world to visit Virginia for the Sesquicentennial Anniversary of the Civil War, a four-year period in which the exploration of our history can benefit all.” McDonnell’s proclamation of Confederate History Month is intended to give all Americans, and Virginians in particular, the opportunity to take pause and remember the history, both positive and negative– but also to enjoy the sights and sounds of Photograph of the slave auction block at Green Hill Plantation, Virginia’s natural and architectural beauty. Campbell County, Virginia.
Many of the preserved battlefields, while natural monuments to the fallen, are also some of Virginia’s greatest outdoor spaces to take in scenery, such as Sayler’s Creek near Farmville and Appomattox Courthouse – two April 1865 losses by the confederacy that precipitated their surrender and preserved our Union. Additionally, Richmond’s “White House of the Confederacy”, which is also the Museum of the Confederacy, has been called a “neoclassical masterpiece” by the Washington Post. The Governor’s office, by this proclamation encourages everyone to remember Virginia’s heritage in April by visiting and observing its Confederate History – a history which is as conflicted and complex as America itself. Bearing Drift does not agree with the governor that only Confederate History should be remembered in April, as Virginia played a pivotal role for both the Union and Confederacy; however, we do recognize his intent at increasing awareness of this critical period in our national past – an awareness of our whole history, both repugnant and heroic. BearingDrift.com/ Page 17
Making Virginia Taxpayers A Priority Guest Column by House Speaker William J. Howell
erving in the House with a Republican in the Governor’s Mansion makes a world of difference. Jackie Gleason’s familiar refrain nicely sums up my feelings – “How sweet it is!” Leading the Virginia House of Delegates with my good friend and strong ally, Bob McDonnell, as our new Governor made the 2010 Session the most enjoyable one for me since I became Speaker. It also was among the most productive Sessions for Virginia’s citizens, businesses and taxpayers. Our newly expanded House Majority Caucus -- with a record 12 Republican freshmen giving us a net +6 seats pickup and a 61-member strong majority -made significant progress in advancing freedom and opportunity, limited government and private-sector Prosperity:
Holding the Line on Taxes & Spending As he left office, former Governor and now Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine proposed what amounted to a structurally unbalanced budget for the next two years. Instead of reducing spending to address the substantial revenue decline caused by the recent recession, he short-sightedly proposed a 17-percent increase – or nearly $2 billion – in new state income taxes, the elimination of nearly $2 billion in Car Tax Relief over the next biennium, plus a host of new fee increases totaling 165 million.
House Republicans resolved from the outset to represent Virginia’s taxpayers in this year’s difficult budget process.
House Republicans resolved from the outset to represent Virginia’s taxpayers in this year’s difficult We reduced state spending in the near-term and budget process. We understand that folks continue now embark upon bringing much-needed structural struggling with the effects of a weak economy that’s reform and long-term changes to state government; not creating new jobs and more opportunities. Accordingly, we took the inherited annual deficit that We defeated former Governor Kaine’s statewide tax increases and those proposed by Democrats in Kaine stuck us with and produced a balanced state the Senate, which would have seriously jeopardized budget that made tough choices on spending, held the private-sector job creation, economic recovery and line on taxes, completely eliminated all new fees and included a healthy deposit in the state’s Rainy Day our future prosperity; Fund. We rejected the Federal mandate for socialized medicine that would harm our state budget by passing the Virginia Healthcare Freedom Act of 2010; and
Understanding that growing the tax base through entrepreneurial risk-taking, private-sector investments and business development is the key to Virginia’s We expanded choice and innovation by passing economic recovery and long-term prosperity, the Governor McDonnell’s Charter Schools legislative original House budget included almost $50 million in package that will bring new educational investments to foster an economic environment that’s opportunities to all Virginia students in more conducive to creating jobs and opportunities. every community. Governor McDonnell asked lawmakers to “provide us I’m proud to lead our Republican team in the House the tools, we will get results.” The House budget and am excited by the public policy improvements provided substantial funding to jump-start incentive we have just begun to deliver by working closely with programs and bolster existing programs that have our new Republican partner in the Governor’s Office. proven to be effective job-creation tools. Volume 1, Number 2 / May 2010
Democrats in the Senate countered in their original budget with questionable, pie-in-the-sky state revenue estimates, more than doubled the new fees proposed by Kaine to a whopping $330 million, and refused to make the difficult but necessary decisions to curtail state spending since revenues have been down sharply given that taxpayers are anxious about their paychecks, job prospects and family’s well-being.
While the Senate did not see fit to expand economic development efforts in its budget, I’m pleased that the House prevailed on this defining issue in the final budget negotiations. Now, we have a $50 million investment in vital jobs programs – as House Republicans originally proposed – and a newly invigorated toolbox to ensure Virginia remains open for job-creating existing and new businesses.
Against this backdrop, the final budget now before Governor McDonnell is one that is fiscally sound and appropriately has state government living within Its means. That’s what businesses, families and taxpayers do all the time. Government should be no different. In the next biennium, the Commonwealth’s General Fund spending will shrink. Over the next two years, Virginia will spend $31.4 billion in General Fund resources — an 8% reduction compared to the $34.0 billion in the 2006-2008 state budget. The Wall Street Journal recently highlighted the differences between how sober, budget-balancing Republicans in Richmond are leading on fundamental fiscal issues versus out-of-control, tax-and-spend Democrats in our Nation’s Capitol: “If Washington returned to 2006 funding levels the way Richmond will, the federal government would have nearly a balanced budget, not a $1.34 trillion deficit in 2011.” The Virginia General Assembly passed final budget included no tax increases and supported spending with about $47 million in increased fees each year that are dedicated to pay for services directly funded by the fees. Given the Democratic-led State Senate’s seemingly head-in-the sand insistence on more government spending and more revenues to pay for it, the House did a remarkably good job limiting these increases. Indeed, we ended up with considerably less than the nearly $330 million in new fees championed by Democrats in the Senate.
Frankly, many of us were frustrated by the fact that the Senate budget conferees were slow to get started on budget negotiations and were not ready to meet with the House budget conferees until the closing days of the Session, which caused the 60-day session to run over by a day. But, in recognition of the tough economic times facing taxpayers, the House, unlike the Senate, voted to forgo our in-session payment for that extra day of the 2010 Session. That commonsense action was consistent with the legislative costsaving strategies which I have pursued since becoming Speaker. Continued on Page 20 BearingDrift.com/ Page 19
Making Virginia Taxpayers A Priority Speaker William J. Howell, continued It’s worth remembering that in the run-up to the 2010 Session, I announced that through a variety of costcutting actions, the House had reduced spending in our current 2010 budget by $2.1 million – or at least 10%. Of course, Delegates also have gone without a pay raise for 20 years. The final budget agreement saves $7.3 million from spending cuts throughout the entire legislative branch of state government. Overall, since I became Speaker, the Commonwealth has improved one of its many important national rankings. Virginia has dropped from 40th to 46th in the nation in per capita spending on the General Assembly, according to the most recent data compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), while remaining the 12th largest state in population. For the current fiscal year (2010), the budget for the House, Senate and all legislative branch agencies is less than one-half of one percent – or 0.43% – of the total General Fund budget of $15.8 billion. That’s good news for beleaguered taxpayers.
I’m reminded of something a wise Virginian, the “sage of Monticello” once said: “A government big enough to give you everything you want is strong enough to take everything you have.” Unfortunately, the Democratic-led Congress woefully failed to heed former President Thomas Jefferson’s sound advice. But this year, in Virginia, we acted on this common-sense conservative principle. Protecting Freedom House Republicans led the way, not just in reducing the size of state government, but also in advancing liberty in other policy areas important to many Virginians. Democrats in the Senate did their best to stop us — even creating a special subcommittee in the middle of the Session that was, according to the President of the Senate, Lt. Governor Bill Bolling, in conflict with their already adopted Rules of the Senate. They did so for the sole purpose of killing bills to protect the second amendment rights of law-abiding Virginians.
These are just a few of our first positive steps during the 2010 Session toward building a Commonwealth of However, Republicans succeeded in reversing the ban opportunity for citizens, businesses and families by on concealed carry permit holders carrying firearms in successfully insisting that state government lives restaurants, passed legislation allowing for the within its reduced financial means. carrying of firearms in secure containers in vehicles, and authorized concealed carry permit holders to apply for renewal by mail.
The House also passed a number of important bills to protect precious innocent life, but, save one, they were all killed by Democrats in the Senate. One House bill would have required abortion providers to meet the same licensing requirements as other health care providers. Another would have required an ultrasound image as part of the informed consent process. While the Senate once again killed those reasonable measures, legislation addressing a terrible crime made it to the Governor’s desk for signing into law. A loophole in state law previously prevented the prosecution of a mother who purposely killed her child Volume 1, Number 2 / May 2010
after he or she was delivered, but before the umbilical cord was cut. Now, Virginia law will allow for the appropriate prosecution of such immoral and criminal acts. Fortunately, the Senate of Virginia was not able to stop Republican-led efforts in the General Assembly to stand up to Obamacare — the new federal healthcare law recently hailed by Cuban dictator Fidel Castro as “a miracle.” This legislation, with its 10 years of tax increases (approximately half a trillion dollars) and 10 years of Medicare cuts (another half a trillion dollars) only pays for six years of spending! Even U.S. Senate Budget Chairman, Kent Conrad (D-ND), in what must have been an incredible moment of candor, described it as a Ponzi scheme that would make Bernie Madoff proud.
Governor McDonnell signed the Virginia Healthcare Freedom Act on March 24. Photo: Office of the Governor
Another of the many reasons I’m so concerned about President Obama’s health insurance mandate is because it poses yet another obstacle to our goal of creating jobs and actually could end up adding to spiraling medical costs rather than controlling them. The proposed expansion of Medicaid included in Obamacare is a huge unfunded federal mandate on the states. Projections are that this expansion will put at least 400,000 more individuals on our Medicaid rolls. The Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Madoff financing schemes by President Obama and his Services estimates that it will cost the Commonwealth allies in the Congress – including our own Senators Jim an additional $1.1 billion by 2022. I agree with Webb and Mark Warner, plus four of our 11 Governor McDonnell that “this will have a significant congressmen who all voted for Obamacare – certainly and unavoidable impact on the bottom line of our are not the Virginia way. The continued intrusion of state budget and the general welfare of Virginia.” this Congress into the free enterprise system, and Obamacare’s new unfunded mandates, is totally at Medicaid spending already is the fastest growing part odds with the American system of federalism. One of of our state budget that has to be balanced, unlike the most terrible provisions in this new federal law spending by Washington. While we continue to be mandates that every American must purchase health aggressive in finding every way by which we can insurance or face a monetary penalty. Not only is this reduce the existing costs of our state Medicaid system, an unprecedented expansion of federal power, it’s also the fact remains that it already has grown 1,600% in one that I believe is unconstitutional. the past 25 years. That’s unsustainable now and Virginia taxpayers just cannot afford to pay for a For those of us who still believe in the Constitution and new federal expansion on top of that. its limited and enumerated powers for the federal government, I’m delighted that Governor McDonnell While we all agree that we must expand access to quality health care and reduce costs for all Virginians, already has signed into state law the Virginia that should not be accomplished through an Healthcare Freedom Act, which I co-patroned and voted for. It sets as the policy of the Commonwealth unprecedented federal mandate on individuals and that no individual, with several very specific exceptions, states that so many of us believe violates the U.S. can be required to purchase health insurance coverage. Constitution. In addition, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has done his duty and filed suit in Federal Court to protect Virginians from the serious overreaching of the Continued on Page 22 Federal health care mandate. BearingDrift.com/ Page 21
Making Virginia Taxpayers A Priority Speaker William J. Howell, continued Heavy taxes on healthcare (is the energy sector next?), unprecedented deficit spending that will balloon bureaucracy and one-sided dispensations to organized labor are among the initiatives pursued by the ruling party in Washington – ones that have alienated so many voters and set the stage for GOP electoral gains come November 2010. Virginians do not want their elected representatives to foist increased costs on our state budget with unfunded federal mandates and, in turn, overwhelm us with skyrocketing Medicaid costs. Doing so only crowds out any future spending for K-12 education, higher education, roads and bridges and other state priority needs. For these good reasons and more, I will continue to stand with Governor McDonnell, Lt. Governor Bolling, Attorney General Cuccinelli and other like-minded allies in support of speaking out against federal measures that curtail our God-given and constitutionally protected freedoms. Spreading more dependency on government may be the agenda of Democrats, but conservatives, Republicans and rightthinking Independents know that such a course is at odds with our country’s history and will limited our future potential. Advancing Choice in Education During the 2010 Session, I also was delighted to work with Governor McDonnell and legislative allies from both sides of the aisle and in both chambers where possible to help ensure Virginians have the education, skills and job training they need to succeed in our modern economy. Republicans have long led the way to standards-based education reform in Virginia and likewise have been hard-charging proponents of more choice and competition. That’s why I’m glad Republicans proactively seized a number of opportunities this year to keep Virginia on the leading edge of educational reform. For example, the House took aggressive action to improve Virginia’s education system by focusing funding on classroom learning and expanding choice Volume 1, Number 2 / May 2010
for parents in determining the best school for their children. Although the Senate killed a separate bill that would have required 65% of state education funding to be spent in the classroom where student learning occurs, structural reforms in the new state budget make significant progress in focusing education funds on the right priorities. Through long-term, structural changes in education funding formulas, the General Assembly passed biennial budget directs state revenues toward teachers and students in the classroom. However, a push to give more flexibility in the allocation of educational resources to local school boards and local governments did not survive the legislative process despite the House’s best efforts. We also passed legislation that expanded school choice and charter schools as well as college laboratory schools and virtual schools that promote innovative learning. All are part of Governor McDonnell’s “Opportunity to Learn” agenda. Although it was modified to garner passage in the State Senate, the new process for charter school applicants gives Virginia a better shot at expanding the number of charter schools to provide more educational alternatives. These reforms will benefit all schoolchildren, especially those who are at-risk and disadvantaged. Combined with legislation providing for “virtual schools” that use technology to reach students who struggle in a traditional classroom environment and “laboratory schools” that provide for cooperation between Virginia colleges and local schools to implement new programs, we have made great strides in the 2010 Session toward welcoming more innovation and choice in Virginia’s education system. Like so many, I agree with Governor McDonnell: “States that move proactively to bring innovation, competition and reform to their public schools not only are serving their young people well, they’re improving their prospects for future economic prosperity and job creation.”
Republicans have long led the way to standardsbased education reform in Virginia and likewise have been hard-charging proponents of more choice and competition. Looking Ahead
Under the very capable leadership of the Chief Job Creation Office and Virginia’s Lt. Governor, Bill Bolling, the Governor’s Economic Development and Job Creation Commission already is off to a good start since the House prevailed in getting $50 million included in the new state budget for job-creating economic development. Still, I’m expecting the up to 50 citizens yet to be named to this panel will find additional areas for improvement.
On so many fronts, Republicans led and successfully met an array of challenges during one of the most difficult sessions in modern times. Although the 2010 Session is history, more work – and new opportunities In particular, I’m hopeful that they can dig deep and – are unfolding as new life blossoms across Virginia. identify impediments to job creation by state government – be they cumbersome and unnecessary Later this month, the members of the House and regulations, outdated rules and procedures, or Senate will return to Richmond for the annual one-day incorrectly aligned agencies that are not coordinating Reconvened Session to consider any vetoes or well and working collaboratively. Removing such amendments proposed by Governor McDonnell to obstacles is essential for government to be properly legislation passed by the General Assembly. focused on helping – not hindering – those in the private sector who take the risks, make the Honestly, I am not anticipating that many amendments investments, seize the opportunities and create the to the budget. Since the House and Senate both new jobs that produce greater wealth and better worked closely with the Governor’s Office as we livelihoods for Virginians and their families. hammered out a final budget agreement, there probably will not be any wholesale rewrites. The one I also anticipate that there will be a focus on possible exception may involve fine-tuning the newly revamped changes to the Commonwealth’s tax environment. structure of the Virginia Information Technology That would be smart because whenever possible we Agency (VITA). Regardless, the Commonwealth is want not just to maintain – but increase – Virginia’s fortunate to have former Delegate Sam Nixon as the standing as the best place for business to do business new Chief Information Officer leading VITA. Sam not in America. Taxpayers will appreciate that. The only was a key “go-to” person in the legislature on Governor’s Commission on Government Reform and technology issues for many years, but ably served as Restructuring is one that I’m especially eager to see House Majority Caucus Chairman, too. In addition, I get started. Perhaps that’s because I plan on serving am sure that Governor McDonnell will have some on it. amendments to various bills. But, I don’t expect As the first Speaker of the House to create a non-profit, last-minute surprises or major clashes which marked independently funded research, education and recent “Veto” sessions. advocacy organization, the Virginia Reform Initiative (VRI) that I chair, I’ve long had a passion for Of course, Governor McDonnell also has announced transforming Virginia state government. Since its the creation of three new gubernatorial commissions creation in 2004, I’ve made as VRI’s top priorities – on jobs, government reform and higher education. promoting new ideas and market-based reforms to Undoubtedly, their work will occupy considerable improve the delivery of government services, amounts of time, research and debate throughout the maximizing the return on investment of limited rest of this year. I’m optimistic about their ability to taxpayer dollars, and minimizing the costs of help find ways to better position Virginia for future government wherever possible. Virginia taxpayers progress in each of these important public policy areas. Continued on Page 24 BearingDrift.com/ Page 23
Making Virginia Taxpayers A Priority Speaker William J. Howell, continued are not an ATM and cannot afford a state government that mistakenly tries to be all things to all people. VRI’s core mission coincides well with what I believe Governor McDonnell wants to do. As we did when we served together in the House, the Governor and I want to lead the way forward and accomplish a lot over the next four years for the benefit of taxpayers and all Virginians. One of the main charges of the Governor’s Government Reform Commission is to “identify opportunities for creating efficiencies in state government, including streamlining, consolidating or eliminating redundant and unnecessary agency services, governing bodies, regulations and programs.” Of course, the privatization of the Alcohol Beverage Control Board will likely garner considerable media attention and require a lot of hard work to make sure we do it in a smart, well-thought out and fiscally responsible manner. But, other tremendous opportunities await us throughout all of state government, in agencies large and small. I’m very encouraged by the serious and comprehensive manner that the Governor already is taking to help ensure that the Commission will be able to hit the ground running. I am told that Governor McDonnell currently is surveying his Cabinet on possible reform initiatives. He’s asking for input from not only all agency heads, but the general state government workforce, too. What cost-savings measures has an agency previously adopted? Which functions could be consolidated with another state agency? Which could be eliminated? Which could be performed by the private sector? Answers to these and similar type questions are the building blocks that a thorough review of all of state government must provide. For the benefit of taxpayers, I want to enact real reforms and practical solutions to ensure a smaller, smarter, simpler and more responsive state government.
Volume 1, Number 2 / May 2010
The Government Reform Commission is scheduled to complete its initial findings and recommendations by July 16 with a final report due December 1, 2010. The world is changing and Virginia – the winner of accolades for sound management under both parties – must rise to the occasion and once again lead America in meeting the challenge. Another area where Virginia has long been recognized as a national leader is through its outstanding system of higher education. That’s why it’s good to see that Governor McDonnell wants to make our great institutions of higher learning even better. Our colleges and universities are known worldwide for their high quality, teaching, innovation, research and service. Here in Virginia, they also are jobcreators and catalysts for economic growth and development. I, too, recognize the important contributions of higher education in Virginia. In 2005, I helped champion landmark legislation that the General Assembly adopted to make our public colleges and universities more efficient, more competitive, more accessible to Virginia students and more accountable to tuition-paying parents and taxpayers. The Restructured Higher Education Financial and Administrative Operations Act of 2005 established a framework by which unnecessary bureaucratic red tape was reduced. Virginia’s public institutions of higher education also received enhanced ability to plan for the future and better manage their operations more efficiently – all of which have been benefiting students, parents and taxpayers. Governor McDonnell’s recently announced Commission on Higher Education Reform, Innovation and Investment will help ensure that our colleges and universities continue operating at the highest levels, while remaining accessible to Virginia students. A particular focus will be on the goal of increasing the degrees granted by public colleges and universities by
“How sweet it is!” 100,000 over the next 15 years. Another priority will be finding ways to make a college degree more affordable. Likewise, I anticipate that attracting and preparing young people for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers as well as other disciplines (such as healthcare and advanced manufacturing) where skill shortages now exist or there’s unmet demand also will be key objectives. While I do not yet know who all will be named to this panel, its recommendations are due to the Governor by November 30, 2010 and in advance of next year’s session. The Commission’s work will hopefully play a pivotal role in the shared effort to make Virginia a more highly educated state where businesses seek to locate and good jobs are available to citizens in their communities throughout our entire Commonwealth. The hard-working, tax-paying and law-abiding people of Virginia deserve nothing less. One of Jackie Gleason’s most popular characters was the blustery bus driver, Ralph Kramden, who when good naturedly arguing with and teasing his far more sensible wife often declared – “One of these days … one of these days … Pow! Right to the Moon!” An optimistic, “bang, zoom,” skies-the-limit outlook is what I believe our Commonwealth has to look forward to this year and beyond with Republican vision, innovations and leadership. If we’re smart, creative and diligent in putting our common-sense conservative principles into action, maybe it won’t just be me but taxpayers and all Virginians who’ll be feeling – “How sweet it is!”
Session Highlights Budget, Taxes, Jobs, Energy & Economic Development HB 30 Rejects the 17% statewide income tax increase proposed by Gov. Kaine. HB389 Promotes development of off-shore wind-powered electric energy generation. HB787 Expands state policy to promote oil and natural gas exploration, development and production, not just exploration for natural gas. Education HB 1390 Expands charter schools in Virginia by implementing a new process for reconsideration of those that are denied or revoked by local schools boards. Health Care HB 30 Restores respite care for Medicaid waiver recipients, and lifts freeze on all Medicaid waivers for elderly and disabled Virginians. HB 1033 Protects the lives of newborn children by allowing the Commonwealth to prosecute a mother who would take the life of a newly born child after birth. Law Enforcement, Public Safety, Veterans, Military HB 166 Protects additional categories of law enforcement by allowing for capital punishment for individuals convicted of murdering fire marshalls and deputy and assistant fire marshalls with law enforcement powers. HB 934 Protects additional categories of law enforcement by allowing for capital punishment for individuals convicted of murdering such law enforcement personnel. HB 1033 Clarifies application of homicide and child abuse laws to human infants born alive, regardless of whether the umbilical cord has been cut or the placenta detached.
Government Reform & Savings HB 10 Protects Virginians from Federal government requirements or mandates to carry health insurance through the Virginia Health Care Freedom Act. HB 30 Rejects unpaid days off (furloughs) for state and local govern Transportation HB42 Directs JLARC to annually audit operational & programmatic performance of all state transportation agencies. HB756 Requires at least 80 percent of royalties from off-shore drilling be deposited in Transportation Trust Fund. HB856 Increases the speed limit from 65 mph to 70 mph on certain highways in Virginia following a traffic engineering study and analysis of accident and law-enforcement data. HJ126 Requests Virginia Transportation Research Council to study privatizing highway rest areas.
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The Iron Triangle of Bedford by Jason W. Johnson As the so-called “Great Recession” lumbers on, legislators from Virginia to California are frenetically seeking to reconcile declining revenues with the increasing costs of providing existing services—a feat made more daunting by the spending sprees many states took during the halcyon days of the previous decade. In the Commonwealth of Virginia, the biennial upheaval from which our state budget emerges is now, blissfully, over and, considering the difficult choices that had to be made, it ended anticlimactically. For a few weeks, however, between the time outgoing-Governor Tim Kaine and newly-inaugurated Governor Bob McDonnell released their respective budget and budget proposals, heated rhetoric soared, much of it centering on Virginia’s public K-12 school system. Regular readers of Bearing Drift will be familiar with the challenges this budget process presented schools in northern Virginia, but they may be less familiar with the challenges—and accompanying hyperbole—that the budget process presented downstate school divisions. Rural, downstate Bedford County briefly became the newest front in the war between proponents of low taxes and supporters of higher taxes, as a majorityconservative Board of Supervisors was bombarded by the local chapter of the Virginia Education Association (VEA). Volume 1, Number 2 / May 2010
In the balance hung, not only the education of the county’s 10,841 students, but also the fate of two, small, rural elementary schools and the family budgets of Bedford County landowners already feeling the brunt of the Great Recession.
How We Got Here When unveiling his final budget on December 18, 2009, outgoingGovernor Tim Kaine proposed freezing the Local Composite Index (LCI) at the 2008-10 level. Through a complex formula combining the true value of a locality’s property, adjusted gross income, taxable retail sales and population, the LCI determines each county and independent city’s “ability-topay” for its own school district. The higher the locality’s LCI rating, the more able that locality is to pay for its own school system, and thus the less money it will receive from Richmond. Conversely, the lower the locality’s LCI rating, the less able that locality is to pay for its own school system and the more money it will
receive from Richmond. The purpose of this complex funding mechanism is to ensure an “equivalent education” for every schoolaged child in Virginia, regardless of the affluence of his or her school district. Every two years, the LCI is updated to reflect current property values, income and population. For the four decades in which this funding mechanism has been in place, this revenue stream may have fluctuated with macroeconomic forces, but it has never been frozen. Former-Governor Kaine explained his unprecedented freeze as necessary both to provide “certainty” for school administrators preparing their annual budget and to aid the 97 school districts that stood to lose money if the LCI was updated during the recession. Among the localities hardest hit by Kaine’s proposed LCI freeze were the northern Virginia counties of Fairfax, Loudon and Prince William, which stood to lose at least $128 million in state support. Kaine’s action was even criticized by his fellow Democrats, like state senator Chap Peterson who described the freeze as “discriminatory treatment” for favoring 97 smaller school districts over Fairfax County’s public school system. Petersen asserted Fairfax County’s public school system is equivalent in size to
all 97 of those hard-hit districts combined. Almost two months later, newly inaugurated Governor Bob McDonnell acceded to requests from northern Virginia business leaders and a bipartisan group of northern Virginia legislators to allow the LCI to be updated. This update helped save Fairfax County $61 million alone, but also had a significant impact downstate where a number of counties lost state money. Among the central Virginia counties hardest hit is Bedford County. The Gathering Storm Situated between Lynchburg and Roanoke, Bedford County (population 66,831), is largely a bedroom community for its urban neighbors. The bucolic scenery that inspired the Bedford boys’ legendary heroism on the beaches of Normandy is giving way to strip malls and subdivisions. With this growth has also come an influx of students into Bedford County’s school system, increasing demand for newer schools and a more advanced curriculum. This emphasis on education prompted the Lynchburg News & Advance to describe the Bedford County Public Schools (BCPS) as “a gem” among central Virginia’s school systems. Despite this jewel-like status, BCPS took a hit when the LCI was updated; rated a .349 in the 2008-10 LCI, when the LCI was unfrozen, Bedford County was reassessed at a rate of .407, reflecting a loss of approximately $7 million in state support. To close this budget gap,
BCPS Superintendent Dr. Douglas Schuch proposed closing two, small, rural elementary schools (Thaxton and Body Camp) and firing 124 full-time employees of BCPS. Dr. Schuch’s proposed cuts ignited a firestorm of outrage in Bedford County, much of which came from the usual suspects: the local VEA. Almost every year, the local VEA, citing data demonstrating that BCPS’s teachers are among the lowest paid K-12 teachers in the Commonwealth, ask the Bedford County Board of Supervisors for a raise. The board usually attempts to compromise with them, while maintaining the county’s low real estate tax rate. This year, however, set amidst both the sluggish economy and the McDonnell Administration’s proposed cuts in K-12 funding, the ongoing battle between the VEA and the Board of Supervisors took on an increasingly strident tone, as the board faced demands to “Save Our Schools” and “Read Our Lips: Raise Taxes.” The Lynchburg News & Advance joined the chorus, calling Bedford County’s real estate tax rate of 50-cent per $100 of assessed value “unrealistically low” and declaring that the days of “…preferring to have low real estate taxes while counting on Richmond to pony up the rest of the dollars [for education]” are over. The paper also urged the Board of Supervisors to “…wake up to the new fiscal and political realities, as painful as it might be.” (1)
Echoing the News & Advance’s call for a tax increase, a concerned citizen, Dale Herbst, warned the Board of Supervisors at a public hearing that BCPS had been forced to “cut ‘fat and muscle’ and is now ‘being forced to amputate.’” Herbst exhorted the board to raise the county’s real estate tax seven cents per $100 of assessed value, projecting that this tax increase— with appropriate provisions for low and fixed-income residents— would bring an additional $4.7 million into the county’s coffers that could be earmarked for public education: “‘Real leadership is not mimicking the behavior of the cowards in Richmond. If you tax us, we will pay.’” (2) However, not everyone was convinced that all the fat had been trimmed from BCPS’s $100 million budget. Thaxton-area supervisor Annie Pollard questioned the almost $8,000 in food, lodging and travel expenses charged to BCPS when the school board, superintendent and clerk attended a recent three-day conference at The Williamsburg Lodge. Freshman school board member Dave Vaden suggested that as watchdogs of the people’s money, the school board should review the budget line-by-line looking for possible areas of waste, like county-supplied cell phones for BCPS administrators. Continued on Page 28 (1) “Time to Pay the Piper for Lack of School Support,” Lynchburg News & Advance, 14 February 2010. (2) Barnhart, John, “Residents Ask for Taxes to be Raised to Save Schools, Jobs,” Bedford Bulletin.
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The Iron Triangle of Bedford, continued Thaxton Elementary PTA president Valerie Detamore offered the practical advice utilized by countless American families during tough times: “‘If they can cut a little bit from a lot, they can come up with the same amount of savings.’” (3) Ironically, all of these suggestions were rebuffed: the conference was a legitimate school expense, said veteran school board member David Black. Additionally, Black told Vaden that it was the BCPS administrator’s job to comb the budget; therefore the school board should rely on his judgment. (4) When surveyed about their willingness to accept a minimal pay cut to save jobs and prevent school closures, nearly 70 percent of the 1,200 BCPS employees who responded to the survey stated that they would not approve a pay cut to save the jobs within the BCPS—their fellow teachers and, presumably fellow VEA members. Nearly 80 percent of respondents also said they would reject a pay cut to keep Body Camp and Thaxton Elementary Schools from closing. With Bedford County School Board Chair Debbie Hoback promising that the teachers’ opinions would be a factor when preparing the BCPS’s budget, it seemed that the fight for higher taxes was unavoidable and would soon be playing out in front of the majorityconservative Board of Supervisors.(5)
Volume 1, Number 2 / May 2010
An Uneasy Truce Representing Bedford County’s seven magisterial districts, the Board of Supervisors is an eclectic mix of individuals consisting of, among others, longtime residents, like Roger Cheek, relative newcomers, like Chuck Neudorfer, the loquacious but always humorous Dale Wheeler, a high school basketball coach, Gary Lowry (also the board’s first AfricanAmerican member) and even a rock star, Steve Arrington. Despite their differences in personality and style, all seven members of the board share a commitment to governing Bedford County in a fiscally responsible manner. They were, then, perhaps unsurprised to see a capacity crowd awaiting them in the boardroom for their regular March 8 meeting. This crowd—comprised almost exclusively of teachers, school administrators and concerned parents—wore t-shirts, wielded signs, passed around a donation jar for public education and even sat a large, papier-mâché puppet of Benjamin Franklin carrying a placard reading “Ignorance is More Expensive Than Education”. Their designated speakers denounced the McDonnell Administration for cutting K-12 funding and, by extension, threatening the solvency of Thaxton and Body Camp Elementary Schools and the jobs of 124 BCPS employees.
They extolled the benefits that a tax increase (proposals ranged from one to seven cents per $100 of assessed value) would have on the future of Bedford County students and pledged electoral support for any supervisor forward-thinking enough to support this tax increase. A Survey USA poll commissioned by WDBJ-7, CBS’s Roanoke-affiliate, that was released around this time, seemed to indicated public support for a tax increase. Political scientists used to write frequently of the “iron triangle” by which bureaucracies increase their funding by appealing to their client s in the public, who in turn pressure their political leaders to support their favored bureaucracy, who then oversee this bureaucracy. All the elements of the classic iron triangle appeared to be falling into place in Bedford County: except a complicit Board of Supervisors.
(3) Bowman, Rex and Courtney Cutright, “School’s Finances Look Even More Bleak,” Roanoke Times, 19 February 2010. (4) Faulconer, Justin, “$8,000 School Board Training Trip At Center of Bedford County School Budget Debate,” Lynchburg News & Advance, 13 March 2010. (5) Faulconer, Justin, “Most Bedford Teachers Say They Won’t Take Pay Cut,” Lynchburg News & Advance, 4 March 2010.
Despite the display of solidarity for a tax increase, a majority of supervisors expressed opposition to raising taxes during a recession. Supervisor Dale Wheeler stated that the proposed seven cent tax increase would be insufficient to cover the $7 million BCPS lost when the LCI was updated. To recover that money, a 15 cent tax increase would be necessary and, in the current economy and in a year when real estate is being reassessed, property owners would be less than enamored with a 25 percent tax increase. One-byone, other supervisors publicly stated their opposition to a tax increase at this time. (6) Unless something changed, it appeared that Bedford County was poised for a contentious fight over taxation. Conclusion In an almost dramatically anticlimactic end to the tempest, the Virginia General Assembly granted a reprieve of sorts to the downstate school districts that were hard-hit by the updated LCI. When the legislature approved the biennial budget on March 14, the General Assembly restored 50 percent of monies lost of localities when the LCI was updated. As a result, Bedford County received an additional $3.5 million in school funding. This infusion of cash was enough for Dr. Schuch to forestall the proposed school closures and widespread layoffs. An as-of-yet undetermined fee will be levied on participants in extracurricular activities in an effort to make these activities “revenue neutral.”
While former-governor Kaine’s proposal to freeze the LCI at pre-recession levels might have benefited BCPS and other, less-affluent downstate counties, it would have been devastating to the larger northern Virginia school districts. Gov. McDonnell was right to unfreeze the LCI, a truth not lost on Bedford County’s weekly newspaper, the Bedford Bulletin: …Gov. Kaine was wrong to ever suggest freezing the LCI in the first place. It has been the traditional standard for deciding the state funding and a proposal to change that was wrong. That’s what school divisions — including the Central Office staff here — had been preparing for in looking at the budget in the first place. When the LCI changes, some school divisions are helped, some are hurt. That’s the nature of the formula and Gov. Kaine knew that. (7)
The anticipated pain did not materialize, nor did the dire predictions that reduced state aid to local school systems would destroy Virginia’s highquality public education infrastructure, and, to paraphrase one placard at the March 8 Board of Supervisors meeting, “leave every child behind.” The BCPS has the last-minute infusion of cash from the General Assembly to thank for that. Bedford County’s property-owners were spared a tax increase during a recession by a Board of Supervisors that was willing to withstand a barrage of public criticism from the local VEA, concerned parents and the editorial page of the Lynchburg News & Advance. Continued on Page 30 (6) Barnhart, John, “Residents Ask for Taxes to be Raised to Save Schools, Jobs,” Bedford Bulletin (7)“Tough Choices,” Bedford Bulletin.
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The Iron Triangle of Bedford, continued The spectre of a future tax increase lingers over Bedford, however; at a work session prior to the approval of the BCPS’s $93 million budget, both Dr. Schuch and School Board Chair Debbie Hoback both reiterated that a tax increase to support education would be unavoidable next year to finance school maintenance projects and textbook purchases. (8) Perhaps the greatest lesson that can be learned from this episode is the importance of electing responsible representatives to local governing bodies. While the Bedford County Board of Supervisors foresaw budget shortfalls last year and directed the county’s highly competent administrator, Kathleen Guzi, and her staff to begin planning accordingly. As a result, the board was able to provide BCPS with level-funding and only had to close a $1.4 million shortfall. Conversely, last year the Bedford County School Board eagerly accepted money from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act and continued spending as if the economy was not in a severe recession. When the Stimulus money ran out, and the full impact of the recession manifested itself in Bedford County’s LCI rating, the school board faced a $7 million budget shortfall with no popular or easy fixes. Instead, they could only pass the baton to the Board of Supervisors, hoping the public outcry over diminished K-12 funding would generate enough political pressure to force the Volume 1, Number 2 / May 2010
board to raise taxes, thus saving the school board from its own lack of foresight. This year, it did not work, in part because of the extra money the BCPS received after the final state budget was approved, but also because the Board of Supervisors was unwavering in its conviction that the deepest recession since the Great Depression is no time to increase the tax burden on families already feeling the squeeze. When we elect individuals to represent us on local governing boards, we expect them to be good stewards of the money we entrust to their care. Public education is one of the most important functions of local government and should be approached responsibly. That does not, however, give our elected officials the right to use schools, and the children they are charged with educating, as shields to deflect public scrutiny of the way they are handling the money designated for education. That might be the way iron triangles function, but the children of this Commonwealth deserve better, and this year in Bedford County, that is exactly what the children got.
(8) Barnhart, John, “Body Camp, Thaxton Elementary To Remain Open,” Bedford Bulletin
Legislator Profile: Delegate Chris Stolle
Stolle Swings for Fence During Freshman Session by Brian Kirwin
A freshman state legislator rarely gets the majority of his or her agenda approved through the House and Senate and even less often sponsors legislation tied to national interests with an assist from the President of the United States. This is particularly true when the state Senate and President are from the opposite party. Delegate Chris Stolle has proven himself to be very effective during his first session, having set such a bar.
His HB 756 directs 70 percent of revenues and royalties from oil and natural gas drilling to Transportation, with 10 percent to localities and 20 percent for energy research. Paired with fellow freshman Delegate Ron Villanuevaâ€™s HB 787 policy bill to support oil and natural gas production, the Virginia Beach Boys have taken on Richmond and won. Continued on Page 32 BearingDrift.com/ Page 31
Legislator Profile: Delegate Chris Stolle, continued Del. Stolle’s success sheet includes bills for military use of HOV lanes, establishing a Veterans Skills Database, making contributions to the Virginia Military Family Relief Fund tax-deductable and a resolution concerning aircraft carriers staying in Hampton Roads. Del. Stolle has had unusual success guiding his bills through committees and the Senate, although he does call HB 756, “by far the most difficult bill to get through,” and “required a considerable amount of coordination between the Governor's office, Senate leadership, and me.” That a freshmen Delegate would be so adept at working with Senators is impressive. “Sen. McWaters and I had similar bills on HOV lanes. We needed to coordinate the language so that the bills would be identical. Once identical, the bills would move more easily through both Houses,” explained Stolle. “Several of my bills had Senate sponsors as well, which required coordination of the bills,” he added. Stolle was impressed with the level bi-partisanship cooperation. “There is always grandstanding going on, and there is always some party politics in the background. But for the most part, most of the time, most of the Delegates and Senators are trying to do what they feel is right for the area they represent. This often leads to more regional differences than party differences.” There weren’t many surprises for Stolle, as he was well prepared for the General Assembly experience. Everything was much as he thought it would be. But he developed a healthy respect for committee work, discovering that, “it is just as important to stop bad bills in committee as it is to pass good bills through.”
Volume 1, Number 2 / May 2010
“There is much more to do than there is time to do it.”
Still, the committee system and the ticking clock always present problems. “There is much more to do than there is time to do it. It is not uncommon for me to have two sub-committee meetings at the same time and have one of my bills before a third committee.” So, which did he attend? He tries to attend all of them. “I review the bills that are coming up in the different committees to see which ones the committee may need my specific input on. I will often go back and forth between committees and sub-committees as different bills come up for review.” Trying to be three places at once makes a hectic legislative day. “Most days there are committee or sub-committee meetings starting between 7 to 7:30 a.m.,” Stolle explained. He usually is in his office an hour beforehand. “I am in committee meetings until about 10 a.m. I meet with constituents in my office from the end of committee meetings to the start of the caucus meeting.”
Noon brings the House floor session and then more sub-committee and committee meetings, the last ones starting around 5 p.m. and ending between 6:30 and 7 p.m. “When not in committees in the afternoon, I meet with constituents in my office. I usually get back to my apartment between 9 and 10 p.m.” Meeting and communicating with constituents is important to Del. Stolle. “Lots of folks have come up to visit me, plus I receive between 200 and 500 emails a day,” Stolle said. “I have been able to come home on most weekends and have had a chance to meet with folks when home on the weekends as well.” Judging from his work in his very first session, the folks back home are getting exactly what they voted for – a hands-on, intelligent, dedicated legislator.
Commentary by Dr. Robert Holsworth Bottom line, Bob McDonnell had a successful first session. He maintained a commitment to the core principles on which he campaigned. He showed a capacity to compromise when it was necessary to keep his priorities alive. And he made a fairly significant concession to take a hot button issue that was not part of his campaign agenda off the table. The Governor campaigned on a pledge not to raise taxes to deal with the budget shortfall and succeeded in closing the $4 billion deficit without breaking faith with his promise. McDonnell's landslide victory spoke volumes to members of the Assembly. When the House considered, for example, outgoing Governor Kaine's proposal to raise the state income tax to reduce the amount that needed to be pared for the state budget by about $1 billion, it did not receive a single Democratic vote. McDonnell also received widespread support for his initiatives giving the Governor and his economic development staff more tools to attract and retain businesses. Jobs and economic recovery are the public's biggest concerns and McDonnell took the steps available to a Governor to highlight his recognition of this anxiety. McDonnell was able to declare victory on his effort to increase Virginia's receptivity to charter schools, reaching a compromise with Virginia's major education groups (teachers, superintendents, school boards, and principals) to achieve school reforms. The ultimate power for approving charter schools still rests with local school boards, but the State Board of Education will have a larger role in assessing initial applications. Toward the end of the session, McDonnell worked to quell the firestorm Attorney General Cuccinelli generated by advising the Commonwealthâ€™s institutions of higher education that non-discrimination policies including sexual orientation as a category was out of line with Virginia law. The Governor initially observed that the Attorney General's opinion was "legally correct," but ultimately issued an executive directive noting that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation was prohibited by the 14th Amendment. McDonnell's performance basically solidified his standing with the Virginia public and with the GOP punditocracy outside the state. He did nothing to undermine the confidence Virginia voters placed in him last November and CNBC's Larry Kudlow called him an "absolute rising star in the Republican firmament." In particular, McDonnell's determination to hold the line on tax increases and overall government spending is a message perfectly consistent with the national mood in 2010; one that McDonnell is likely to emphasize when taking the Virginia message to other venues. McDonnell faces two challenges in the near term. The first is to make good on his campaign pledge to loosen the funding and legislative process on roads and transportation in Virginia. Both of his Democratic predecessors were ultimately unsuccessful in this regard and Democrats are claiming today that his campaign plan on transportation was just smoke and mirrors. McDonnell faces a genuine challenge here, made all the more difficult by the slow pace of economic recovery. McDonnell's second challenge is posed by the meteoric and unexpected rise to prominence of Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli; a political figure whose support among the GOP is considerable. McDonnell and Cuccinelli are in lockstep on challenging federal government overreaching via the Democrats' health care bill and EPA assertions about climate change.
Volume 1, Number 2 / May 2010
The two do not agree in all cases, however, as demonstrated by the Governor Executive Directive on nondiscrimination essentially giving higher education permission to ignore Cuccinelli's advice. It would appear the governor wants the higher education agenda focused more on affordability and new degree attainment, not on the matter the attorney general emphasized. Gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender activist-groups added political pressure by shrewdly linking Cuccinelli’s legal opinion on college anti-discrimination policies to economic development; sending public letters to Northrop Grumman at the very moment McDonnell was encouraging the company to move their headquarters to Virginia. The evolution of the Cuccinelli-McDonnell relationship will be one of the most interesting dynamics to watch in Virginia politics over the next four years. On the one hand, Cuccinelli has a genuine knack for focusing on high profile matters that are really important to conservatives; on the other, Virginia Democrats (and, perhaps, national Democrats as well) will work to link McDonnell to whatever elements of the attorney general’s agenda do not play well with moderates and independents. In contemporary Virginia, it has become a common practice for Governors to summarize a year's work in a sentence. Here's McDonnell's. "I closed a $4 billion deficit without raising taxes."
Quick Quip “I’d go so far as to say this may well prove to be one of the most fruitful General Assembly sessions in years. “So, while the WashPo continues to yell ‘THESIS!’ the people of Virginia are seeing results “Now if McDonnell would only pass that 100 percent tax on newsprint used in Springfield, Virginia…” - Jim Riley, Virginia Virtucon, March 11
Volume 1, Number 2 / May 2010
Snarkery and Cartoons from Ward Smythe & Friends.
Volume 1, Number 2 / May 2010
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In this issue: Secretary of Natural Resources Doug Domenech; special General Assembly recap by Speaker of the House of Delegates William How...